by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman
The year my husband spent abroad after graduating college, he taught for several months at a Bible school in the Fiji Islands. There was a missionary there who was much-revered for his wisdom and excellent teaching. After one particularly inspiring class, the students surrounded the godly man and asked: how long did it take him to prepare for such a profound lesson?
The old missionary smiled at the eager students. “Oh, about 45 years and a half-hour,” he told them.
Some things take time. A long time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a godly Christian. Yet often, we struggle with impatience at our lack of maturity. Why can’t we be wiser with our words? When will we ever feel confident in our Bible knowledge? Will there come a time when our foolishness is at an end?
When are we finally going to get it all together?
A look at scriptural examples of God’s time frame in transformation to maturity can also be discouraging. Moses spent the first forty years of his life in the Pharaoh’s palace. Then, after murdering an Egyptian guard, Moses fled into the wilderness. There he remained for forty more years. It wasn’t until Moses was the ripe old age of 80 that God called him to lead his people out of Egypt.
Then there is the story of David. The prophet Samuel anointed him to be the next king when he was quite young, still tending the family sheep out in the fields. While David knew what the future held for him, few others did. Life did not change quickly for David after the anointing. But eventually King Saul saw him as a threat, forcing David to flee into the wilderness. There he remained in exile for many years, continually pursued by Saul and his army. It was a long wait before God would finally fulfill His promise.
Even Jesus spent time in the wilderness in preparation for His public ministry. For forty days, He fasted and endured temptations flung at Him by Satan.
Clearly, preparation takes time. And it is in the wilderness that God often does His most important work in preparing people for their purpose.
Why the long wait in the wilderness for each of these future leaders? The writer of Hebrews gives us a clue (in reference to Jesus): “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:8-9 NASB).
Jesus perfected His obedience through experiencing suffering in the wilderness, as did Moses and David.
Being in the wilderness, with its isolation and difficulties, can have a valuable outcome. Through our experience there, we see the reality of just how much we need Him. When we do, it is only then that we are best equipped to do His work: our hearts fully open to His leading and ready to choose His will over our own.
Time in the wilderness grows us into much more effective servants. Paul learned this when dealing what he considered to be a thorn in his flesh. “Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me,” he wrote. “And He has said to me, ‘My power is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9 NASB). Paul learned the power of Christ through his “wilderness” experience.
Are you suffering in the wilderness today? Hang in there. God is doing a work in you as you wait on Him. Someday you will be able to look back and see what He accomplished in you during that time. And you will count it worth the cost.
I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 NASB
About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.
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Join the conversation: How has God used a wilderness experience to transform you?